At the NWSCC meeting in the Community and Arts Centre on Monday night there was much discussion on the merits of the flats proposed for the car park area which is the site of the former Community Centre. There were various opinions on the merits or otherwise of the proposed building with flats on two floors and a relocated CAB office on the ground floor – any readers not up to date with he proposed building can find the application here and then submit their own thoughts if they wish.
What is becoming increasingly interesting though is the demolition procedure for the old police station itself. There were claims that Highland Council are riding roughshod over the wishes of the community despite claims of a new dawn of community empowerment. From the public seats over at the Communtiy Centre on Monday night folks it certainly did seem like it was more of the same one-way traffic from Glenurquhart Road.
The restoration of this building seemed to have been enshrined in a Town Centre Plan produced with funding from the Scottish Government back in 2015 as a result of local folk been extensively consulted. Here's what Joan Noble had to say at the meeting:
“I would just like to come back to the Charrette process starting in 2015, that was a two year process which I think cost £40,000. A huge number of people from Nairn took part, both at the meetings, by letter, by whatever...it was led by consultants, it was extremely well done and then it was drawn together into this town centre community plan. Which was an integrated plan for the town centre that would encourage the economic health of the High Street, encourage visitors to come and all the things that we have heard about.
It was actually approved by the then Councillors from Nairn in 2017. So it has actually been adopted by our own Highland Councillors and we have to say to them, that they do, even if they weren't on the Council at that time, they have a corporate responsibility to support that plan until a time that that plan is changed. So you can't just say that you can't support the plan because it has already been enshrined, it's been enshrined in the Inner Moray Firth Development Plan and it is also in the new Inner Moray Firth Development Plan which we saw the beginnings of at the meeting with Scott Delgarno. It's supplementary planning guidance so it can't just be chucked in the bin like that.
But the last question I have to say is: why should people in this town bother going through these huge processes of consultation and drawing together really good ideas and everybody getting enthused about it and suddenly out of left field with a couple of weeks notice, boom, the whole thing just goes up, just explodes, the whole reasoned argument that has been worked on for four years for our town centre. So there's a huge point of principle here, you come to a town and you ask everyone what they think – you get together, you talk together and it's all written out and put in our Highland-wide plans and it is supplementary guidance. Then all of a sudden just because we get money from the Scottish Government you can't throw everything that has been decided.
That's my first point, it's the whole principle of asking people to design their town centre and then throwing it in the bin. It really gets up my nose.”
A little later, both Mandy Lanswon and Hamish Bain of Nairn River Community Council spoke.
Mandy said that her organisation had not been informed of the demolition.
Hamish said:“The demolition order has got no risk assessment, no plans, there's no documentation at all. There is nothing in there that I would consider a normal process.”
Concern was also raised as to whether the public toilets on Common Good Land would be damaged during the demolition.
So there we have it readers – it is allegedly the age of Community Empowerment but it just looks more of the same with Highland Council dictating what it wishes in Nairn. Whatever your feelings about flats being built and the proposed flitting of the Nairn CAB there are surely deep democratic issues here that have rightly been raised?
And here's the result of the Community Consultation back in 2015 when it comes to the buildings scheduled to be demolished in King Street:
“This former office building is vacant and its prominent site should be brought back to productive use, ideally serving a community/cultural purpose.
Restoring these buildings to active use was identified as a priority at the public consultation event onthe Draft TCAP in March 2015. Feedback highlighted their value as part of the traditional fabric of the town. There was keen interest in establishing an appropriate new use, with preference for community use/ownership or public use, e.g. tourist information. There was little support for demolition, despite concerns over the property’s neglected appearance and setting.
These Council-owned former offices and public toilets were recently advertised for sale and attracted some interest from private buyers.
This building is suited to residential use, which would be particularly compatible with Proposal 14 to reinstate King Street’s original town centre character following de-trunking of the A96”